DETROIT — The Red Sox are trying to make their team airtight for the postseason, but so far some of the teams they have been talking to seem to believe the Sox don’t have enough in the talent pool to pull off a trade.
Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski disagrees.
“We have enough to make a major trade if we want to,” Dombrowski said. “I think that’s overblown.”
Manager Alex Cora and Dombrowski feel “very comfortable” with the current roster. And both feel if nothing happens by the trade deadline they’d have a very strong team. They have the best record in baseball.
But what else would they say publicly?
The Red Sox inquired about Mets closer Jeurys Familia, but weren’t able to get very far once the Mets started engaging with Oakland, which has a much deeper minor league system. The Red Sox love Zach Britton — and yes, what a pickup he would be — but the Orioles have been evaluating Boston’s farm system. Boston’s top hitting prospect, Michael Chavis, fresh off an 80-day PED suspension, hasn’t been playing much at Double A Portland because of a wrist injury.
Teams also would be wary of trading for a guy who was just off a PED suspension (Chavis told the Globe he doesn’t know how the substance got into his system). With at least seven teams in on Britton, the Red Sox would have to give up a prospect such as righthanders Bryan Mata, Tanner Houck, or Danny Diaz, lefthander Darwinzon Hernandez, first baseman Josh Ockimey, or third baseman Bobby Dalbec.
“You just come away with the thought, ‘Is that prospect someone I absolutely have to have? Can I do better elsewhere?’ ” said one American League special assistant. “You just don’t come away with ‘Oh my God, have to have him.’ ”
But as many baseball executives have said, never underestimate Dombrowski. He is one of the master traders in baseball. Like Theo Epstein, Dombrowski has never been afraid to deal a prospect in those seasons in which the big league club is thriving.
Could the Red Sox keep on trucking with their current team? With a dearth of good teams, probably so. In the postseason, you need three solid starters, at least five solid relievers, and preferably one good lefthanded reliever.
As Heath Hembree’s role grows — he can be brought in for high-leverage situations — it appears the Red Sox can depend on Hembree, Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, and Craig Kimbrel. Yes, Kelly has had his hiccups, but he can easily get back on a positive streak, as he was for most of the first half. The Red Sox need that solid fifth guy. Brandon Workman has shown flashes. Hector Velazquez is considered more in that sixth-reliever category. So adding a playoff-experienced reliever would be a good idea.
A lot of people think Dombrowski will pick up a reliever he’s familiar with, such as the Twins’ Fernando Rodney or the White Sox’ Joakim Soria. But there are no shortage of relievers in a saturated market. The trick is picking the right one.
Dombrowski said he doesn’t necessarily have to acquirea reliever with playoff experience, but that would be preferable.
Dombrowski was unwilling to prioritize what the team was looking for. But that’s his way. He downplays just about everything until he’s actually ready to pounce. Dombrowski doesn’t like to tip his hand. He warns that just because there’s a Red Sox scout in the stands doesn’t mean that scout is looking at a specific player. Of course, at this time of the year — the trade season — most scouts are looking for something specific. In that respect, Dombrowski won’t be able to get the bloodhounds off the scent.
Teams that have bottom-third farm systems are definitely at a disadvantage at the trade deadline. Boston could deal Rafael Devers and get a ton in return. But they’re not going to deal him because his salary is under team control and he projects as a top player in the league. And they are not going to deal Andrew Benintendi. Certainly they could get a ton for him, but it’s just not going to happen. And what sense does it make to rob Peter to pay Paul, as the great Lou Gorman used to say.
Dombrowski acknowledges keeping his eyes on everything around the league. He keeps up with AL contenders such as the Yankees, Indians, Astros, Mariners, and A’s. He doesn’t feel as if he’ll have to react to whatever they might do because, as he’s found out through experience, a trade deadline pick up doesn’t always put a team over the top.
Dombrowski takes this time of the year very seriously. As he puts it, it’s a chance to improve the team if it makes sense. He has an army of major league scouts watching any potential trade candidates. He’s got his major advisers — Frank Wren patrolling the National League and Allard Baird watching the American League. Wren’s recommendations have yielded Craig Kimbrel and Eduardo Nunez, among others. Baird’s recommendations have brought Steve Pearce, Chris Sale, and others.
The Red Sox seem as prepared for the deadline as any team. Now the questions will arise — can they do something with what they have to offer? And do they feel they really need much at all?
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com.